A recent study that identified the scope of domestic violence in Utah is flawed and inaccurate, according to a local attorney and the professor he hired to evaluate the findings.
But officials, including the pollster who conducted the study, defend the work and question attorney Robert Breeze's motives.Breeze says he's just a concerned taxpayer who thought the study's findings looked suspicious and contacted an expert who could find out.
Completed in July, the large-scale study first garnered headlines when two state leaders got in a tiff about its release. Utah Attorney General Jan Graham accused Gov. Mike Leavitt of delaying the release of the report, which was undertaken by the Governor's Commission on Women and Families.
The report - released in November - found that about one in four Utah women witnessed domestic violence as children and one in five say their own children witness or hear verbal abuse. Dan Jones and Associates, which also conducts polls for the Deseret News and other media organizations, was commissioned to do the study.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Adele Cutler, associate professor of statistics at Utah State University, said the report itself was "quite sloppy in several ways."
Cutler, who was paid $500 by Breeze for her evaluation, said the questions were vague and the statistical tests were not always valid. She questioned the random sampling of the 1,000 households contacted by the pollster.
But pollster Pat Jones denies there was anything unscientific about the study.
"If we had to do it over again, we would do it exactly the same," Pat Jones said. "It makes one wonder what their motive is. The only thing in doing a background check is this man is a criminal defense lawyer, he makes a living defending abusers."
Breeze told reporters Wednesday that he has represented more than 200 women and men on domestic violence cases and has heard judges refer to the domestic violence study in court. He is demanding Jones redo the study and officials apologize and admit it was misleading. He also demands taxpayers be reimbursed.
Most of the cost for the $18,000 study was paid for by a federal Violence Against Women grant. There were some in-kind donations, and Jones underwrote some of the cost. The commission and the Division of Aging and Adult Services each paid $2,000.
Carol Bench, director of the Governor's Commission on Women and Families, said the group wasn't trying to prove or disprove anything when it decided to do a study. It was looking for answers on barriers to services.
Breeze questioned the study's inclusion of emotional and verbal abuse in domestic violence totals. Bench defended it.
"The Women's Commission aren't experts on domestic violence, that's why we commissioned a study," she said.
Bench said the commission hasn't received any other complaints about the study and worried the critique was more a fight about survey instruments and data analysis than about protecting victims. "She's not a sociologist," Bench said of Cutler. "She's a statistician."
Graham spokesman Palmer DePaulis said the study has been "pretty well embraced" and recognized as something that was needed. He said the criticism from Cutler and Breeze was the first officials in the Attorney General's Office had heard. Graham could not be reached for comment.
Diane Stuart, the state's coordinator for domestic violence, was frustrated by the critique. She said, if anything, the numbers were probably low because many women, even on the telephone, are too fearful or ashamed to admit they're being abused.
"When a study like this is critiqued, it seems to send the message to me that domestic violence is back under the table again," Stuart said. "This study verifies what I have known . . . I've been working with victims of domestic violence for nearly 10 years now. I know it's happening here."